By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Business leaders fear “mind-blowing” crime levels are already undermining the Bahamian tourism industry, with one warning: “Everything else is just malarkey unless we tackle it.”
Kevin Seymour, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce’s president, told Tribune Business in a recent interview he had personally “never felt so helpless” over the spiralling murder rate on Bahamian streets.
He added that news of this nation’s escalating crime problem “is already out”, via the US Embassy’s repeated warnings to its visiting citizens, with the result that the Bahamas’ “bread and butter” tourism industry is under mounting pressure.
“Clearly, this thing is really out of control,” Mr Seymour told Tribune Business, naming crime as the Bahamas’ top challenge in 2016.
“I cannot remember a time in this country where I felt so helpless over things going on out streets on a daily basis almost. It’s mind blowing.”
The Bahamas endured a record 148 murders last year. Mr Seymour’s comments came before a further three killings were recorded during the first three days of 2016.
Apart from the personal, social and psychological toll that the carnage is exacting on the Bahamian nation, the crime crisis is also undermining the economy and its competitiveness.
Companies are having to invest in all manner of security and surveillance equipment to secure their businesses, while relatively high levels of internal theft and pilferage raise living costs for all.
Apart from the US Embassy, its UK and Canadian diplomatic counterparts, plus the cruise industry, have all issued crime warnings to their citizens and customers at certain times - especially regarding Nassau and New Providence.
“Word is already out,” Mr Seymour told Tribune Business. “We see on an almost monthly basis where the US Embassy is giving notice to people visiting to be careful, and mindful of where they are.
“The cruise lines may be discouraging people from coming onshore. It’s not in keeping with what we’ve established over the years. It’s spilling over into our bread and butter [tourism].”
Mr Seymour urged the Government to develop a crime-fighting strategy that the Bahamian people could buy into, and share it with the public.
He expressed scepticism that current strategies, such as highly-publicised ‘shows of force’, would have the desired effect. And, unless crime was tackled and reduced, he warned that it threatened to take the whole Bahamian economy and society with it.
“The Government needs to come up with something, share it with the public, and stick with it,” Mr Seymour told Tribune Business. “A show of force here and there will not cause these guys to run for cover. They’re fearless.
“It needs to be tackled. Without this, everything else is just malarkey... It’s not appealing for investors at all, and we’re on a par with Latin America.”
Mr Seymour was backed by Super Value owner Rupert Roberts, who described the crime situation as “frightening”. He told Tribune Business that the resulting negative publicity could eliminate the tourism industry.
“The Government and the police have to come to grips with crime. That’s frightening,” Mr Roberts said.
“For tourism, the first consideration to travel is your safety. It’s a major factor in tourism that could affect the industry. Too much bad publicity could wipe it out.”
Godson 7 years, 2 months ago
I have a vision and a plan...
asiseeit 7 years, 2 months ago
But the P.M. said, "it will be dead good soon". I think he got his words mixed up, he meant to say "soon it will be dead for good". That is the way we are headed.
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